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Nation Maker by Richard J. Gwyn
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Nation Maker by Richard J. Gwyn
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Aug 21, 2012 | ISBN 9780307356451

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Product Details


WINNER 2012 – Writers’ Trust of Canada Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing
WINNER 2012 – Dafoe Book Prize
FINALIST 2011 – Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2011 – BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2011 – Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2011 – Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction
A Globe and Mail Best Book

“Gwyn…has given us a first prime minister for the 21st century…. The book is a towering achievement, a glittering career-capper, and it may prove impossible to beat.” The Globe and Mail

“Writing with his usual elegance and insight, Richard Gwyn has done full justice to the man whose own story is inextricably interwoven with that of Canada.” Margaret MacMillan, author of Paris 1919


Dafoe Book Prize WINNER 2012

Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing WINNER 2012

Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize NOMINEE 2011

British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction FINALIST 2011

Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction FINALIST 2012

Governor General’s Literary Award – Nonfiction FINALIST 2011

Author Essay

In one vital matter, Mackenzie’s performance was a good deal more than just creditable. He found a way to settle the longstanding issue of an amnesty for Louis Riel. And he did it by employing the same skills that the Conservatives had perfected: “the fine arts of double-talk, put-it-off, dodge-the-issue, and fool the voters.” As magnified the accomplishment even more, Mackenzie had been a member of the Liberal government in Ontario that had escalated sectarian hostilities by offering a five thousand- dollar reward for Riel’s capture.
The root problem, as Dufferin identified it in an 1874 memorandum to Lord Carnarvon, who had succeeded Lord Kimberley as the colonial secretary, was that “no administration feels itself strong enough to grapple with the question.” It was no easier for Mackenzie and the Liberals than for Macdonald and the Conservatives to choose one of the two available ways to settle the affair: either to issue a general pardon that would include Riel, despite his execution of Thomas Scott, or to grant a pardon for all routine misdeeds, but excluding Riel and Ambroise Lépine, who had presided over Scott’s trial. The former would cost Ontario’s political support, and the latter Quebec’s, with either of these choices stirring up sectarian suspicions. Macdonald’s solution had been to delay, and to secretly subsidize Riel’s exile in the United States while proclaiming his eagerness to bring him to justice. This policy was thoroughly deceitful, and the Liberals discovered that Macdonald, after losing office, had dipped into the secret-service fund to take out $6,600, almost certainly as a further bribe to Riel. Nevertheless, it had served to gain time—the one solution that might heal most of the wounds.
The amnesty issue came to the fore again in the spring of 1874, when Riel, having won the Provencher seat in Manitoba held earlier by Cartier, travelled secretly to Ottawa and, abetted by some French-Canadian MPs, signed the members’ register before slipping out of town. Quebec was delighted by Riel’s defiance; Ontario, outraged. Mackenzie resorted to a classic Macdonald device— setting up a parliamentary committee, its majority now Liberal, to examine the entire issue, particularly whether the preceding government had made a formal offer of an amnesty. Over six weeks, the committee heard twenty-one witnesses, among them Macdonald, Bishop Alexandre Taché, and Father Noël-Joseph Ritchot. Macdonald summarized his government’s involvement by saying that Cartier and Ritchot had always moved “on different planes” as they discussed the contentious issue—Cartier excluding those involved in Scott’s death, and Ritchot including them. After hearing all the witnesses, the committee reached no conclusion but simply published the evidence presented to it.

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